Lack of funding and financial assistance is one of the biggest issues that many Canadian caregivers have identified. Caregivers may experience financial stress associated with providing care for someone, whether it is a disabled person, an elderly person, or some other family member or friend with an illness.
Our goal is to help the caregiver think through possible next steps to improve their quality of life. The following steps involve programs and financial aid to minimize financial stress for caregivers.
This section was adapted from the “United Way Metro Vancouver Family & Friends Caregivers Information and Resource Handbook 2016/17” with permission from the author.
No BC program pays family caregivers for their caregiving work, but some other forms of assistance is available which might help depending on your situation:
BC Hardship-Reduced Rates for Public Long-term Care. Government-subsidized Residential Care (sometimes referred to as Long-term Care) costs up to 80% of an individual’s annual after-tax income, subject to a minimum and a maximum rate. This can be financially difficult for dependent spouses who, because they stayed home to raise children and care for family, had limited access to CPP and private pension plans, and relied on the pension of their spouse. The 80% rate can severely limit household income for the spouse who continues to live independently in the community. In cases of financial hardship, be sure to speak with the social worker at the facility where your spouse is living about hardship-reduced rates. Learn more.
The BC Palliative Care Benefits Program supports BC residents of any age who have reached the end stage of a life-threatening illness and want to receive medically-appropriate palliative care at home. ‘Home’ is wherever the person is living, whether in their own home, with family or friends, in a Supportive or Assisted Living residence or hospice that is not a licensed Residential Care facility (Residential Care facilities are already covered under PharmaCare Plan B). BC Palliative Care Benefits cover certain drugs, medical supplies, and equipment that are used in palliative care. BC residents who want to receive palliative care at home can ask their physician or nurse practitioner to assess their eligibility for benefits. If they are eligible, their physician or nurse practitioner submits a registration form. Once registered, benefits continue as long as the person is in need of palliative care.
Canada Bereavement Leave An employee is entitled to up to three days of unpaid leave on the death of a member of the employee’s immediate family, as per the Canada Labour Code. This leave may be for purposes other than to attend a funeral.
Compassionate Care Benefits Program – Canada Employment Insurance (EI) 1-800-0-Canada, are EI benefits paid to persons who have to be away from work temporarily to provide care/support to a family member who is gravely ill and who has a significant risk of death within 26 weeks (six months). The benefits can also be taken within an expanded period of 52 weeks (up from 26 weeks) and can be shared between family members. If you are unemployed and already receiving EI benefits, you can also apply. To be eligible for compassionate care benefits, you must show that your regular weekly earnings from work have decreased by more than 40 percent and that you have accumulated 600 insured hours of work in the last 52 weeks, or since the start of your last claim (this period is called the qualifying period). Self-employed Canadians can also apply for EI special benefits if they are registered for access to the EI program.
Disability Tax Credits for Care Recipients – Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) 1-800-959-8281 toll-free.
Taken from “Tax time: credits for caregivers” by Shelby Parkinson, Liberty Tax Service in the Winter 2017 edition of Family Caregivers of BC Caregiver Connection newsletter:
The Disability Tax Credit can be granted by the Canada Revenue Agency when a doctor fills out form T2201. (n.b. expect a charge from the doctor for this service.) Information on this is available on the CRA website.
The Disability Tax Credit:
- Allows the higher income person living in the same household to claim the caregiver amount, a tax credit that can reduce taxes by as much as $1,000. As long as the person in care has a total income under $22,000 this can be claimed. Note that the amount declines as income gets closer to $22,000.
- Can be transferred to another person in the same household if not needed by the taxpayer. This can be significant if the caregiver is working.
- In BC, it means that home improvements done to the residence to allow mobility or access can be used to reduce provincial taxes. Up to $10,000 of expenses can be claimed triggering a refundable tax credit of up to $1,000.
- New for 2016, is the federal Home Accessibility Tax Credit which mirrors the BC tax credit on the federal side, again up to $10,000 of expenses. This doubles tax credits available for needed home renovations! Federally, the credit reduces taxes owed (it does not show up as a “refund”).
- And further good news, if the accessibility renovation also qualifies as a medical expense you can claim that as well. A good example is a new accessible bathtub: get a 15% federal tax credit for the renovation, a 10% refundable provincial credit plus the 15% medical credit. Key to claiming these credits is who actually paid for the renovations. If it benefits the caregiver then it must be the caregiver who pays the bills.
- Other medical expenses might be claimed as well, although this can be tricky if the caregiver is not the spouse. The amount claimed must be over 3% of the person’s income and the caregiver must be able to prove that they paid the medical expenses themselves. Using a joint bank account will not be acceptable. Any bills, for example, from a dentist, must show the patient name and then the name of who paid. If medical expenses are high, then it can be worthwhile to get professional advice on this. Medical expenses are commonly “reviewed” by the CRA after they are claimed and a clear paper trail is needed. The new measures around home accessibility provide an opportunity for tax planning in 2017 and beyond. If a renovation is contemplated, then there are really good reasons to plan it carefully and keep all the documents. In some cases, the caregiver may be eligible for the dependent amount. However, there are conditions on this credit: the caregiver must be single, the person in care must live with them (and be related), and the dependent’s income must be below $11,474 in 2016.
When a family member must be moved to a care facility, most of the tax reduction measures are limited to the spouse. Medical expenses, including the nursing home fees, can be claimed by either spouse – whoever needs the credit to reduce taxes. The Disability Tax Credit can be transferred to a spouse but not to another family member, such as an adult child.
Family Caregiver Amount (FCA) Tax Credit – Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) 1-800-959-8281 The Family Caregiver Amount, a federal tax credit, provides an additional non-refundable tax credit that provides tax relief for some caregivers of dependant relatives who have a mental or physical impairment. This includes, for the first time, spouses, common-law partners, and minor children who are living with the family caregiver. The person you are caring for must have a low income. You must have a signed statement from a medical doctor showing when the impairment began and what the duration of the impairment is expected to be. You can claim the family caregiver amount for more than one eligible dependant. For more information and to view the CRA three minute Family Caregiver Tax Credit video, see www.cra-arc.gc.ca/familycaregiver
Family Responsibility Leave – BC Employment Standards Act, 2015. Section 52 of the ESA states: “An employee is entitled to up to 5 days of unpaid leave during each employment year to meet responsibilities related to (b) the care or health of any other member of the employee’s immediate family.